Front of package “Health claims.” Do they mean anything…

Frosted Cheerios reads:  “Clinically proven to help reduce cholesterol.”

Cocoa Via reads: “Promotes a healthy heart.”

Oroweat reads:  “Heart Healthy” on many if not all of its bread products.

What does all of this mean?

Frankly, NOTHING.  These are all structure/function claims, meaning they do not need to be backed in hard, rigorous science, if any science truly at all.

Many of these claims can be and are misleading.  They make you believe that what you are about to eat is healthy and good for you, and will “cure” you or “prevent” some ailment or disease.

Yet, you would either need to eat such high volume of the product that the calorie intake would far supersede the health benefit, or it really has no “significant” effect whatsoever.

Consuming 1 portion of any of these food items might have the ability to reduce cholesterol by 1-2 points.  That’s not saying much.  But, eating 4-5 portions, yes, that might reduce cholesterol by a “significant” 5 or more points, but I wouldn’t bet your money on it.

Moreover, the amount of sugar and calories you would be consuming would be detrimental.  Eating 5 portions of frosted cheerios, for example, would cost you at least 600 calories.  But you would only be eating at best, 3-4 cups of cereal.  I’m sure with the amount of sugar, insulin response, and blood glucose response, you would probably be hungry again fairly quickly.

Same with the bread.  Eating 5 slices, ~500 calories, might give you a reduction in cholesterol, but the extra calories you would be consuming would likely increase your weight, and therefore eliminate the benefit.

Food companies do this for many reasons.

  1. The first is to sell their product.  If you believe it is good for you, you are likely to consume more.  The “Halo” effect of food.  This is a real phenomenon.  When people think their food is healthier (ie. organic), they tend to eat significantly more of it.  That green juice must be good for me…even though it has 350 calories in the bottle.
  2. The government says that they can.  Structure/function claims need minimal scientific backing.
  3. It sells more product.
  4. It sells more product.
  5. It sells more product.

So, it not only pads their bottom line, but it pads your bottom.

My advice.  Don’t look at the “claims.”  Look at the ingredients, look at the nutrition-facts label, and buy foods with ingredients you can recognize, understand, and have the fewest number…

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